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BBQ safety

Be well grilled in barbecue safety: read our guide to safer barbecues.

Summer is the time of year when we delve into the recesses of the garden shed, garage or beneath the tarpaulin sheeting, to bring out the barbecue.

Barbecues can be a great social event and are the perfect way to cook whilst enjoying the summer sunshine. However, the combination of raw meat alongside cooked meat and salads can often be the source of food poisoning.

When using the barbecue, follow these simple rules to cook in safety - you can also download a copy of our Barbecue safety checklist . For more information on food and health issues, visit the Food Standards Agency website.

Preparation before cooking

Before cooking on the barbecue, the charcoal should have gone through the initial burning period when the flames have died down and the coals are grey in colour.

The cooking grill should be positioned at a height so that the rate of cooking can be easily controlled. Cooking too quickly will result in lots of smoke and food which hasn't been cooked thoroughly.

Rules for meat

Raw meat, including chicken, sausages and burgers, contains germs which could cause food poisoning. Keep raw and cooked meat and utensils separate as bacteria can be transferred from raw meat onto cooked food by using the same dishes and utensils.

Follow manufacturer's instructions for the cooking of burgers. If they can be cooked from frozen, ensure that they are cooked throughout and that there are no pink bits left inside.
It is recommended that raw meat is kept on one side of the barbecue and cooked food is kept or served from the other. This will reduce the risk of you contaminating nearby surfaces and utensils with blood and germs from the raw meat.

Fresh chicken legs and chicken pieces can be cooked on the barbecue, but should never be cooked from frozen. To assist cooking, chicken can be pre-cooked in the oven, on a low heat for 30 minutes and then finished on the barbecue.

Keep hands as clean as possible. Handle raw and cooked foods using separate utensils. Both these steps will stop you spreading germs onto cooked food.

Wet wipes and disposable paper towels will help clean dirt from hands but will not eliminate germs that cause food poisoning, which could then be passed onto the cooked food. You should keep hands as clean as possible and avoid wiping them on your apron. Frequent washing using an antibacterial soap, especially after handling raw meat, will help to reduce the potential for bacterial transfer.

Coleslaw, salad and salsa tips

An essential part of any barbecue is the salad that accompanies the cooked food. This includes coleslaw, mixed leaf salads, salsa and a variety of dressings. These are often bought pre-prepared or otherwise prepared at home. The following tips will help reduce the risks associated with this type of food at the barbecue.

Ensure all salad is washed and/or rinsed thoroughly, prior to use. Soil and dirt also carry germs that could cause food poisoning.

Don't prepare salads too far in advance. Keep them in the refrigerator until you're ready to use them. Refrigerators should operate between 1-5oC. If you aren't sure of the fridge temperature then buy a thermometer at the shops or supermarket the next time that you visit.

Keep dishes covered - even if they will only be outside for a short period before being eaten. Bowls of salad and coleslaw should be protected from flies and dust.

Discard the remaining salad after the barbecue. In addition to enjoying meat and other barbecue food, flies love coleslaw and cheese topping as much as humans!

Hot tips for safety

Never move the barbecue when it has been lit. Ensure that the site is suitable: level, sheltered and away from people, fences, sheds and other combustible material.

Know where the nearest water supply is in case of emergency and where the nearest telephone is.

Act quickly if people are burnt by placing burnt hands/arms under running water for at least 10 minutes. Do not apply creams to the burn.

Seek medical advice if you are unsure about any injury that someone has sustained.